Col. John D. Posner took over as commander at Cannon Air Force Base on Friday, and hopes to maintain the success outgoing base commander Col. Robert “Rowdy” Yates helped establish. Last week CNJ Staff Writer Darrell Todd Maurina spoke with Posner for about 20 minutes on his future goals for Cannon and his family.
Until recently, the Langley AFB Web site said that you were the vice-commander of a unit at Langley that “coordinates air expeditionary force operations by assisting in the planning and scheduling of AEF assets, identifying and refining training requirements, guiding deployment and redeployment planning, monitoring readiness, and providing continuity across the AEF spectrum.”
Can you explain in layman’s terms what that work involved?
The (Air Expeditionary Force) Center really is a complicated business, but in the simplest terms, what it tries to do is schedule the deployable combat capability of the Air Force. The combat capability of the Air Force is able to deploy in support of combatant commanders around the world. We will schedule them so that we fair share that burden across the Air Force so that everybody has a fair shot or their fair share. We do that in such a way that we fulfill the combatant requirements that combat commanders around the world need us to fulfill.
Tell me a bit about your life before joining the military, where you grew up, and what prompted you to join the Air Force and remain in the Air Force as a career officer:
Well, both me and my wife are from military families, so our younger years were as members of an active-duty Air Force family and we followed our fathers around as they served, and that’s probably the biggest influence, at least on my side I’m sure, to get me involved in the Air Force. It’s been a great career. I’m glad I joined and I’ll stick around as long as it’s fun, challenging and rewarding.
How many years have you been in the Air Force?
I was commissioned in 1980 after spending four years at the Air Force Academy, so commissioned time is approaching about 24.
So on the question about where you grew up —more or less being a military family, you followed your parents around, both of you?
We moved around quite a bit. I guess our family was a little bit unusual in that my dad spent quite a bit of his later years in the Washington, D.C. area. So we didn’t move around probably as much as the average military family. We call Alexandria, Va., home.
Will this week be your first time visiting Cannon?
No, actually I’ve been here before. I was part of an air show delegation that visited here a long time ago. As we were packing up to come out here, we were both looking at the key to Clovis that was presented to me several years ago. That always sits on my desk and now I’m pleased to be able to have it on my desk here at Cannon.
What was your first impression of Cannon when you first came here for that previous event (air show)?
It’s a great base. This is the kind of base that I think the Air Force can really leverage to their advantage for their mission. There are some great advantages to being in this part of the country, a small town with open airways and less congestion than you might see on the east coast, so I think the resources of the facility, the environment, the community, they are all perfectly balanced to help the Air Force.
Tell me what challenges you anticipate being commander of a fighter wing and how that will differ from or perhaps build upon your previous assignments:
I’m kind of new here, so the challenges part is probably something I’ll have to see as I get more involved in this particular job. I don’t know if I can really comment on that one.
Could you comment a little bit on what it will be like to be commander of a fighter wing as opposed to some of the types of work you’ve done previously — maybe not specifically Cannon, but the job in general of being commander of a fighter wing?
I think command really involves two primary things, whether you are commander at the group level, the wing level, or whatever, and I guess I would simplify them into two categories, taking care of people and making sure you can execute the mission. They are all intermingled — if you take care of your people then you are ultimately are going to take care of the mission. Those are the two focus areas I think that most people recognize as the primary responsibility of leaders.
I understand from speaking previously to the public affairs officer at Langley that your wife is a retired active duty lieutenant colonel who has the status of a full colonel in the Air Force Reserves. How did the two of you meet?
We met in the Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base many years ago and we dated for several years and decided to get married.
What sort of challenges and benefits have you had as a dual-career military couple?
I think there are many. For benefits, it’s always nice to be able to have someone who understands very well the things that I deal with on a daily basis…. she understands the business and a lot of the things that are required so that’s great to be able to have that kind of understanding. I think challenges, though, it’s difficult to support a family when you have two people working and that’s something that we ran into and that’s one of the reasons, I think that (my wife) would retire. When we had two children we thought it was time for one of us to spend a little bit more time at home. That’s kind of an issue that each family has to decide for themselves. There’s really no magic formula. Each family has circumstances and I think a lot of people can make a two-member military family work fine. Some can, some can’t, and it’s just something that each family has to decide for themselves.
Since the Air Force is having an increasing number of dual-career military marriages and also spouses who choose to work outside the home, do you have any particular plans to model that choice for younger servicemembers who are trying to balance their military careers and family life?
I think that’s basically what I’ve just mentioned. Everybody has to kind of make that choice for themselves.
Do you have any big plans for your future at Cannon?
I think it’s a little early to tell, I think I’d like to wait and see how the job unfolds.
What are your priorities upon taking command?
Again, the responsibilities of the commander that I kind of alluded to before, taking care of the people and making sure that we can successfully execute the mission that we are given.
Are there any changes you have in mind or that you believe may be necessary down the road?
I can’t imagine any. I think the record that Cannon has established is one of great success and I can’t foresee any changes that would be needed at this point. The wing and the base are doing a great job.
Your new command position here at Cannon is one that has received many awards, but has also had some difficulties. Cannon has had a large number of court martials, for the past year had the second-highest rate of Area Defense Counsel involvement in Air Combat Command, and was described by the local OSI detachment as having been at one time the crime capital of ACC. Could you outline your views on military justice and what steps you plan to take to address crime by airmen and officers?
Specifically, again it’s a little hard to tell this early in my tenure as the wing commander. But I think in general the Air Force looks at doing everything it can to prevent these kind of incidents from occurring and spends a lot of time and effort in the prevention phase. If something unfortunate does happen then we will do what any Air Force base or organization would do, and that is respect for the rights of the accused, ensure the dignity and safety of the victim and let the mechanism of justice unfold as it will.
What are your thoughts on the current situation (at the Air Force Academy) with regard the allegations of sexual assaults, and what steps do you plan to avoid something like that happening at Cannon?
It’s hard for me to comment on things at the Air Force Academy since I’m not really part of the staff out there and you probably know as much as I do from what you read. I think it might be inappropriate for me to comment on the specifics there. But clearly, it’s sort of the same thing I alluded to before. It’s an issue of prevention, and if prevention fails, then addressing the issues appropriately and effectively to make sure folks understand what is expected of them and the standards that we require.
Let’s move to a more pleasant subject and series of questions. What do you like to do for fun?
I like to be with my family and spend time together.
Anything else you might like to add to that?
We will spend a lot of time, I hope, together trying to get out and about. One of the great advantages of being in the Air Force is we get to visit so many fun and unusual places and this is a great place, I think, for us to spend time together, getting in and about, meeting the folks, learning about the culture, enjoying New Mexico, and anytime that I can get out that would be away from the base, we intend to do that as a family, getting out and seeing the community.
What are your favorite sports?
Just recreationally, I like to run and swim. That’s probably the extent of my sporting career now.
Tell me what you like about flying:
I looked at that question, and I can tell you, it’s hard to qualify that. There’s just nothing bad about flying. I just love every aspect of it and that’s one of the reasons I do this job. It’s great fun.
I do want to give you the opportunity to expand on that, should you so desire:
Really, the whole activity of flying is just great fun…. it’s very challenging and rewarding, it’s a great occupation, it’s one that I get a great deal of enjoyment from.
You indicated previously you do you have children, that would be two of them?
We have twins, two years and two months old. We refer to them as Jack and Ezzie.
Do you plan to keep the most lethal nickname for the 27th Fighter Wing?
Sure. I think that has served the wing well and I think that’d be a great name to stick with.
Do you have any thoughts on what your plans may be for community involvement in the Clovis and Portales areas?
Like I said before, we’re really looking forward to spending some time traveling in and about the community, meeting the folks, and getting to know a little bit about this part of the country.